Heading into the 2014 Sochi Games, this is one article I was hoping not to write.
U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott doesn't carry the kind of talent that had many predicting the 28-year-old would medal, but not many predicted his Olympics to go this bad either.
Performing in the short program of the men's competition on Thursday, Abbott fell, and he fell hard. He was attempting a quadruple jump.
It is not a jump he's ever been able to land with much consistency, but one that figures to be vital to the medal hopes of every skater. Well, except for maybe America's Jason Brown, but he atones for that with technical mastery and a crowd connection that Brown and just about every other skater can't touch.
For Abbott, the quad was essential, and he came up short, landed hard and slid into the padded end boards. He lay on the ice for roughly ten seconds and was clutching his right hip.
That was understandable. That part of his body took the brunt of the nasty fall. I don't think anyone watching, expected him to be able to continue competing, and his coaches were preparing to come and get him.
Abbott would have none of this. He got up, much to the delight of the crowd, and finished his routine.
He didn't just finish it, either, he nailed it, which is especially impressive given his understandably state of mind after his crash:
The crowd raucously cheered as Abbott finished and people watching on TV supported him for his effort:
Abbott received a score of 72.58 for his skate. Considering his nasty fall, that was a solid score, but it is only good enough to have him in 15th out of the 29 skaters.
For all intents and purposes, Abbott's medal chances are long gone. I suppose stranger things have happened in sports, but not much.
Spain's Javier Fernandez is currently in third after a score of 86.98. Abbott simply has too many points to make up and too many skaters to pass to make it to the podium.
Not surprisingly, Abbott had a wonderful attitude about his skate. This post-skate quote from Abbott is provided by CBS News: "I'm not in the least bit ashamed. I stood up and I finished that program and I'm proud of my effort and I'm proud of what I did under the circumstance."
Abbott should not be ashamed. Falls happen. Especially on quads. He should also be proud. His finish to the program was a wonderful display of skating. Also, the way he handled everything with class and determination was an inspiration.
Still, none of that means he won't feel pangs of regret over his Olympic experience.
Abbott has now had two skates in these Olympics and two big falls. His first came in the team competition in the short program. Abbott's whole skate was flawed on that night.
Although the Americans rallied to take the bronze, Abbott put the team in a big hole with his worst short program score in years.
After that effort, Abbott had a hard time pulling any positives.
"I’m torn apart that I couldn’t do this for my team and my teammates," Abbott said in a post-skate quote via Liz Clarke of the Washington Post. "I love being a part of Team USA, and I’m so honored to be skating with the kids I’m skating with. They really have become like family over the last couple weeks, and I really wanted to pull out a win."
Abbott's disappointment could be felt in photos of him after his performance:
This is Abbott's second Olympics, and at 28, it is likely his last.
In Vancouver in 2010, he finished ninth in the men's competition. He has since been training hard to better those results and he's picked up some impressive accomplishments along the way.
He is four-time American champion and a seven-time Grand Prix series medalist.
Still, he has come up short on the Olympic stage.
Abbott still has a chance to perform on the Olympic ice with the upcoming long program, but he'd be hard pressed to improve upon his ninth in Vancouver.
For athletes, failures often ring more prominent in memory than successes, and Abbott has some glaring ones from the Olympics to sort through.
Given the wonderful attitude and dogged determination he's displayed, I expect Abbott to work through those pangs of regret with grace and poise.
I certainly hope does. He deserves no less. He's had a wonderful career and has displayed a tremendous attitude.
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